Western nations chastised Russia on Friday for trying to use the U.N. Security Council to spread disinformation and lies about alleged biological weapons laboratories in Ukraine, which the U.N. said are untrue.
“The United Nations is not aware of any biological weapons programs,” U.N. High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu told council members regarding Ukraine.
She said biological weapons have been outlawed since the Biological Weapons Convention came into force in 1975. Both Ukraine and Russia are parties to the convention.
Nakamitsu urged both countries to make use of measures within the convention to address any concerns.
Russia’s envoy spoke for nearly 20 minutes during Friday’s council meeting, alleging without evidence that Ukraine, funded by the U.S. military, is developing biological weapons in at least 30 laboratories across the country.
Deployed by birds, bats
He said lethal pathogens for plague, cholera and other diseases would then be deployed using migratory birds, bats, and even possibly fleas and lice.
“Currently, according to our Ministry of Defense, the Kyiv regime, according to the request of their Western mentors, are trying to clean it all up to make sure that the Russian side does not find direct evidence that the United States and Ukraine are violating Article 1 of the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention,” Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told the council.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy dismissed Russia's allegations in a video address on Thursday, saying, "No one is developing any chemical or any other weapons of mass destruction" in Ukraine.
“I will say this once: Ukraine does not have a biological weapons program,” U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said. “There are no Ukrainian biological weapons laboratories supported by the United States — not near Russia’s border or anywhere.”
She said that Kyiv has its own public health laboratory infrastructure that works on detecting and diagnosing diseases such as COVID-19.
“The United States has assisted Ukraine to do this safely and securely. This is work that has been done proudly, clearly and out in the open. This work has everything to do with protecting the health of people. It has absolutely nothing — absolutely nothing — to do with biological weapons,” Thomas-Greenfield said.
She noted with concern that Moscow’s motive for calling Friday’s meeting could be to lay the ground for a false flag operation in Ukraine.
“We have serious concerns that Russia may be planning to use chemical or biological agents against the Ukrainian people,” she said.
"The intent behind these lies seems clear, and it is deeply troubling. We believe Russia could use chemical or biological agents for assassinations, as part of a staged or false flag incident, or to support tactical military operations,” she said Friday, echoing U.S. lawmakers' and defense officials' remarks this week.
Thomas-Greenfield and other council members noted that Russia has long maintained a biological weapons program in violation of international law.
“Let us remember the obvious: It is Russia, not Ukraine, that has used chemical weapons on European soil in recent years,” French Ambassador Nicolas de Riviere said. “It is also Russia that is trying to cover up the Syrian regime’s chemical attacks through disinformation.”
In 2018, Russian agents used Novichok, a nerve agent, on British soil against former Russian spy Sergey Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. They both survived. Two years later, Moscow used the same nerve agent in Russia against opposition figure Aleksey Navalny. He is currently in a Russian jail.
“We do not sit in this chamber to be an audience for Russia’s domestic propaganda,” British Ambassador Barbara Woodward said. “And we should not allow Russia to abuse its permanent seat to spread disinformation and lies and pervert the purpose of the Security Council.”
Reports of cluster munitions
U.N. political chief Rosemary DiCarlo told the council that the U.N. human rights office has received credible reports of Russian forces using cluster munitions in populated areas of Ukraine.
“Indiscriminate attacks, including those using cluster munitions, which are of a nature to strike military objectives and civilians or civilian objects without distinction, are prohibited under international humanitarian law,” she said. “Directing attacks against civilians and civilian objects, as well as so-called area bombardment in towns and villages, are also prohibited under international law and may amount to war crimes.”
She said the need for negotiations to end the war could not be more urgent.
The World Health Organization says it has verified 30 attacks on health care facilities and workers, causing at least 12 deaths and 34 injuries.